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Report a pothole

Pothole repair - questions and answers

What is a pothole?

On the road, a pothole is damage that is 40mm or deeper. On the pavement, a pothole is damage that is deeper than 30mm. These measurements are based on recommendations from national guidelines.

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What causes a pothole?

As a road or pavement gets older, it becomes more porous and brittle. This allows rainwater to penetrate through cracks and weaken the surface material. As people or vehicles put weight on the damaged surface, the material moves slightly and breaks up.

In freezing conditions, any water that has already penetrated the surface turns to ice. The ice then expands, which can cause the surface to break up more quickly.

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How much do pothole repairs cost?

We have an annual budget of £600k to fix all 510 miles of Swindon’s roads, pavements and cycle paths. We also have to use this money to paint lines on roads, cut back trees and fix streetlights.

On average it costs us £43.80 to repair a pothole. When we need to dig up the road around the pothole, it costs us £65.50 per square metre. We often have to repair more than one metre at a time. In June 2019 we fixed a series of potholes on County Road. This cost a total of £4,578 (£1,167 on licenses, £450 on road closures and diversions, £2,961 on materials, machinery and labour).

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How do you inspect potholes?

Our team of six highway inspectors regularly inspects the borough’s roads, pavements and alleys to identify potholes and other problems on the highway. They walk every road in the borough at least twice a year.

The frequency of inspections depends on the type of road. The team inspects busier routes such as ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads monthly. Quieter routes and cycle paths are inspected less often, typically every six months. They inspect footpaths once a year.

If you see a pothole circled in yellow paint, it means we know about it and have already inspected it. We will aim to make it safe within 24 hours. If you see a pothole with a yellow square painted around it, it means we are aiming to repair it within six weeks. If there is no yellow paint around the pothole, we may not know about it. In this case, please report the pothole.

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How do you repair potholes?

Once a pothole has been inspected we use three methods to fix them. The aim is always to make sure the roads are safe and then to start planning and carrying out permanent repairs:

Temporary repair – This makes the road safe straight away but only lasts a few weeks, so it will look like a rough patch. If you notice a patch like this has failed, you should report it and we will refill it within 24 hours. This method on average costs around £40 per repair and doesn’t disrupt traffic. It can be used multiple times until a permanent fix can be arranged.

Patch repair – This kind of repair fixes a potholes properly and lasts for years, but can cost thousands of pounds to complete. This means the work has to be arranged and prioritised. It will often require road closures and licenses which can take months to arrange.

Full reconstruction – This kind of repair, like that which was carried out on Upham Road, will last for decades. However, it can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and often requires many months of closures and disruption.

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I have reported a pothole - what happens next?

Firstly, we greatly appreciate you taking the time to help us improve the safety of Swindon’s roads. Once you have completed the form, you will receive an automated email from us. This confirms that your report is now with our highways team, who will aim to inspect it within four working days. If the pothole is 40mm or deeper we will aim to repair it within 24 hours of inspection.

If road surface damage is less than 40mm (25mm to 30mm for a pavement) it is not deep enough for a surface repair to stick. This means we will have to remove the surface around the hole and then fill it back in. In these instances, we will attend to the pothole on a programmed basis.

We won't act on any damage that is less than 30mm deep on a road or 25mm deep on a pavement. However, we will continue to monitor the damage.

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Why do you repair the same pothole multiple times rather than fixing them first time?

Multiple repairs are actually far more cost effective and safer for road users, given our limited resources.

When a road surface is cracking around the pothole or there are several small repairs needed in a road, we may have to temporarily fix the pothole to make the road safe. We would then return later to repair a much bigger patch. It can take a few months to arrange a large repair because it may require a significant amount of planning, road closures, tarmac, machinery and labour. On major roads this can also cause significant disruption to road users.

Weather is also a factor. If the weather is too wet, or too cold, the repair will not set properly. In these cases, we fill the hole temporarily and then come back to do the permanent repair when the weather is dry. If we did the main fix in bad weather it would break quickly, wasting time and money.

If a temporary repair fails before we can make a permanent repair, we will put in another temporary repair before the permanent repair. It's possible for this to happen many times. However, it is better to keep the road safe than leave an empty pothole in the road.

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I pay high road tax and fuel prices. Why aren’t the roads in better condition?

Funds from vehicle excise duty (VED) and fuel don't come directly to us. They go to central government. Each year, we receive a proportion of these funds from central government, which we must decide how to use. 

Overall, funding from the government for transport for the next four years has reduced by approximately 15 per cent, taking inflation into account. In recent years we have been investing more into highway maintenance to supplement the maintenance grants given by central government.  

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Central government gave local councils extra money to repair potholes. How have you spent this money?

Over the last year, we have spent £405k of the Pothole Action Fund. We have spent it on a number of large patches across the borough, providing permanent repair solutions to some problem areas. The following roads have all been repaired using this money:

Berton Close, Brookfield, The Avenue (Stanton), Church View, Finchdale and Merlin Way, Flint Hill, Furlong Close, Gainsborough Way, Home Farm, Liden Drive, Mays Lane and High Street, Robinsgreen, Rowton Heath Way, Sarsen Close, Sparcells Drive, St. Michaels Avenue, Stokesay Drive, Birchwood Road, Woodchester Road, Austen Crescent, Crawford Close, Edison Road, Affleck Close and Romney Way Estate.

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Can I claim against the council if a pothole has caused injury or damage to my property?

You may be entitled to a compensation claim against the council if you or your property has been damaged because of a fault in a road, pavement or cycle path. The outcome of a claim depends on many different factors and you are not automatically entitled to compensation.

A claim form is available to download:

Vehicle claim form 

All legitimate claims are assessed individually and fairly and, where the council is negligent, we will seek to settle the claim as quickly as possible.

More information on making a claim is available in this document:

Making a liability claim against the council

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What materials do you use to fix potholes?

For small potholes, we use a material called Ultracrete. This is supplied to us in 25kg buckets. The material is laid cold and is designed to be a first-time fix.

When there are a significant number of potholes or a pothole is quite big, we use a hot material from a mixing plant. We have to order a minimum of one tonne of this material and it needs to be laid quickly as it rapidly loses its heat. This costs us £75 per tonne to order. Any wastage costs us £5.40 per tonne for disposal.

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Why are you not using innovative ideas to fix potholes?

It's true that some councils have trialled alternative solutions to pothole repairs. However, there has been no evidence that these new repair methods are any more effective than traditional methods. Many of the new solutions may look impressive, but are more time intensive and don’t last as long as our current repair methods.

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